Sunday 1 August 2010

A Typical Day?

4th June 2010

A Typical Day?

The day started in the sunshine, playing shop in the park: I’d like to buy some juice please, I said to my two year old shop keeper. What flavour juice do you have?

“Ummm. We have orange flavour, and we have curry flavour.”

I bought both.

Multitasking: dishes are soaking in the sink, twin tub just finished cycle on back deck, cooking baby’s lunch on hob, (why is baby crying? just checked nappy). Quick visit to supervise Big Sister sat at table making collage, I cut up blue tissue paper for the sky. I am an art teacher, cook, laundry woman, etcetera. All to the absurdly jolly soundtrack of popular children’s song, The Dingle Dangle Scarecrow.

Today I’m trying a new routine. Meg suggested taking Big Sister to the park, first thing. The idea is if I let her run off some steam she’ll be happier for the rest of the day. 9 am we were in the park. Baby was supposed to be napping in pushchair, but wasn’t. By 12.30pm Big Sister has moaned through the morning’s collage activities and now whining and refusing to eat lunch. I’ve been multitasking like one of those circus people that spins plates on sticks, and my tension snaps.

“If you don’t eat lunch you’ll feel ill and grumpy mid-afternoon just like yesterday!”

I remove lunch from table, put Big Sister in front of TV, return to twin tub wash that I started two hours ago. Am now unreasonably irritated by towpath passers-by who stop to ogle and point at my mini washing machine on the back deck. I want to shout at them. William Blake pipes up in my head,

“I was angry with my friend, I told my wrath, my wrath did end,

I was angry with my foe, I told it not, my wrath did grow.”

Go to bath to fill bucket for rinse cycle and baby wakes up crying. It’s a poo. This is what Naomi Stadlen calls being “instantly interruptible”: I feel like I’m doing too many jobs at once. Meg says that I’m trying to do too much. But how else are the dishes and laundry gonna get done?
What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing

2pm. The washing is finally spun and hung on rotary washing line on back deck. I put a bucket of water with bath toys on the back deck as an activity for Big Sister to play with – it’s a lovely sunny day. But she still wants to watch TV. Baby sister is on the back deck in her play chair growling at soft toys. It’s nearly time for her next breast feed. It’s awkward stepping across the open deck boards across the engine with buckets of water from the bathroom to fill the washing machine. The machine’s cable runs over the deckboards and down to the invertor next to the engine below. So I plug in and charge the food blender while the deck boards are up, ready to mash baby’s dinner later4. Finally replace the deckboard, which is heavy steel and I am nervous about dropping it on my bare feet. The dishes are still in progress. I put more in to soak. I persuade Big Sister to eat lunch (now cold) by promising another trip to a park.

Baby sister is blowing raspberries. She’s just discovered how to do this and does it a a lot. It makes her laugh; me too. I’ll just change her nappy and we’ll go to the park I promise.

“Mummy, I need a poo!”

Well go to the bathroom.

“Mummy COME!” She is standing on her stool by the toilet.

I leave baby on bed, nappy off. Why can’t you pull down your own pants?

“I want YOU to do it.”

Back to bedroom, finish nappy change. Back to bathroom, wipe poo. More shouting. Pack bag with spare clothes in case of spontaneous wees out and about. Can’t find portable nappy kit. Bring washing machine in off back deck. People on towpath stare at my laundry on the washing line. I feel like I live in a goldfish bowl. A very busy goldfish bowl. All boaters used to have a strict code of behaivour and manners.
"No one ever stepped on to or crossed another person's boat without first asking to do so, and when tied up side by side with the butty nearest the towpath, if anyone from the motor wanted to go ashore they were obliged to step across the butty hatches, and this they did while staring fixedly ahead, as even a fleeting glance down into the cabin would have been the height of rudenesss. They never liked to tie up where the towpath was a popular place for people to walk, because often they were so rude as to lean over and stare right into the cabins, which was very unpleasant for tthe people inside." (Eily Gayford.)
The amateur boatwomen: canal boating 1941-1945

Unlock pushchair, lift onto towpath. Insert baby. Load saddlebags with rubbish and recycling.

Big Sister has removed sandals that I just put on her and is now playing with water bucket activity that she refused earlier. We leave the boat. I can smell nappies and rotting food and really notice how much waste we produce when we have to get rid of it ourselves. Big Sister asks the name of each boat we pass: Kismet, Ellie Rose, Moondreams, Summer Breeze, Marie, Cheddleton, Tank Girl. We post the recycling into the correct bins and Big Sister enjoys this. We are at Little Venice General Waste Facility. “For general domestic waste only. If these bins are full contact British Waterways. Do not leave bulky items, oil, etcetera.”

I speed-walk to the park, pushing double pushchair, wearing trainers, an idea to get fit. The park is in beautiful Porchester Square; Georgian terraces and leafy dappled sunshine on primary colours of climbing frame. Breathe. Relax. Laugh and play with Big Sister. I must be doing something wrong. I must slow down.

So: Doing the dishes, the laundry and keeping two children fed and happy is an over ambitious plan for the day. Do I really have unrealistic expectations of myself? Meg (who has two the same age as mine,) says,

“You’ve got to remember, we’re in the eye of the maelstrom right now!”

Get home and find nappy kit in bottom of pushchair all along. Make pasta dinner while Big Sister sleeps in the pushchair on the towpath. Big Sister wakes up, The Doctor comes home. Big Sister calls me over, sleepily, “Mummy...” I go to her, bend down and she says,


Blend Baby sister’s pasta into mush, lay table, sit both girls up. Big Sister doesn’t want dinner. The Doctor bribes her to eat by promising strawberries. Bed time hour is manic, everyone tired, everyone washed, dressed, baby in hammock, Big Sister in her room. The hammock hangs in the living room with black out blinds and Fisherprice lullabies. I clear the toys off the back deck and bring in the washing from the line. Lock the pushchair to the back deck with a bike lock (last pushchair was unlocked and stolen from back deck). Come indoors. The Doctor is cooking dinner, Big Sister calls me into her room and points at her chest.

“Mummy, is this my treasure chest?” I adore her. She’s too hot to sleep. ‘Reads’ a book, throws it out of bed, it thuds onto the floor.

The baby wakes up and cries. I soothe her back to sleep, bouncing the hammock on its spring. She’s clutching her small, floppy, fluffy, white bunny. Tired moans, closes her eyes. Gripping my finger tightly in her clenched fist.

Dinner is ready. The Doctor turns off the kitchen lights, the blackout blinds are down. Together we lift the hammock and sleeping baby from the living room into the kitchen. She hangs there peacefully bouncing a little. We eat dinner on our laps in front of the TV. Relaxed, we smile at each other; so tired. I have a mental ‘To Do’ list, post and paperwork to read, emails to reply. Instead, I show The Doctor a phone video clip of our toddler in the park. We get the bed out early, 9.30pm ish. Unfold the futon, make it up with sheets and duvet, tea, coffee, chocolate, read books in bed. Check Big Sister, peaceful, sleeping, flower shaped plastic night light. Baby sister is sleep-breathing in the kitchen. There is a distant babble of chatter from the posh waterside pub across the cut. I catch sight of a gliding goose family, goslings all in a row. Tonight, as I got her ready for bed my eldest daughter asked,

“Why are you happy Mummy?”

Because I’ve got a lovely family, I said.

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